Emergency Prep 101

This is a positively prime time to review the lessons Americans have learned from Katrina (The Big Bad Mama) and Rita (The Not Quite So Bad Mama).

1. It appears that our plans for evacuating large cities could use a bit of tuning up. (Although there are probably plenty of Houstonians who would tell you that, while getting out of town for Rita was sluggish to the max, it was nothing compared to the traffic hassles outside of the Astrodome back in the day when Earl Campbell was running for the Oilers).

In the future, if you’re a Houstonian or a New Orleanian or a Mobilian (Is there a suburb outside that town called Upwardly?) or a Miamite or a Tampoon, it’s now obvious that you (a) pack up and leave town a week before the damn ’cane blows in, or (b) wait until about a half hour before the damn ’cane blows in, and then skitter out of town on what you’re hoping will by then be a deserted freeway. A good Plan B for well-off Gulf Coasters might be the construction of a hurricane room, the storm-oriented equivalent of the wealthy urbanite’s panic room. Maybe a concrete, waterproof basement bunker kind of place, loaded with water, canned foods and battery-powered DVD players. A slightly less expensive Plan C would call for a dirt bike and appropriate riding gear in the garage for each member of the family, so y’all could zoom outta town on lesser-used back roads or in those cracks of space between all the gridlocked cars on the freeway.

(And strike up another plus for living in Nevada, where it’s difficult to imagine any weather scenario that would ever require a mass evacuation. A flood? That would mean only those living along the river get into gear. A fire? Any blaze requiring evacuations would affect similarly small segments of the population. A giant spacecraft hovering over downtown Reno? Now you’re talkin’!)

(One more aside. Anyone who’s ever been to New Orleans will recall the name of the notoriously strong, fruit-punchy cocktail that the local bars all use to get the tourons s-faced. Yep. The Hurricane. I still have a couple of complimentary glasses from Pat O’Brien’s in my cupboard somewhere. Wonder if the town will re-name that accursedly effective skullcramper?)

2. In any disaster, the first media guesses at the number of dead will invariably be way off, usually by at least a factor of 10. Example: Katrina. Early guesses were at least 10,000 dead. As it turned out, the body count was barely over 1,000. Another example: 9/11. Early guesses were at least 40,000 in New York, with the final tally being slightly less than 3,000.

3. If you must live below sea level, by far the safest place to do so is Death Valley, Calif.